Bible Diary for April 19th – 25th
2nd Sunday of Easter
1st Reading: Acts 2:42–47:
They were faithful to the teaching of the apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of bread and the prayers. A holy fear came upon all the people, for many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. Now, all the believers lived together, and shared all their belongings. They would sell their property, and all they had, and distribute the proceeds to others, according to their need.
Each day, they met together, in the temple area; they broke bread in their homes; they shared their food, with great joy and simplicity of heart; they praised God and won the people’s favor. And every day, the Lord added to their number, those who were being saved.
2nd Reading: 1 PT 1:3–9:
Let us praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for his great mercy. In raising Jesus Christ from the dead, he has given us new life, and a living hope. The inheritance that does not corrupt, nor goes bad, nor passes away, was reserved for you, in heaven, since God’s power shall keep you faithful, until salvation is revealed, in the last days. There is cause for joy, then, even though you may, for a time, have to suffer many trials.
Thus will your faith be tested, like gold in a furnace. Gold, however, passes away, but faith, worth so much more, will bring you, in the end, praise, glory and honor, when Jesus Christ appears. You have not, yet, seen him, and, yet, you love him; even without seeing him, you believe in him, and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith: the salvation of your souls.
Gospel: Jn 20:19–31:
On the evening of that day, the ﬁrst day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples, seeing the Lord, were full of joy. Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”
Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my ﬁnger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, the disciples were again inside the house and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your ﬁnger here, and see my hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe!” Thomas said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me, don’t you? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Believe, and you will have life through his Name!
Now Jesus doesn’t have to mask His divinity to His disciples. If before He tempered His display of power to them, now He lets go of this self-imposed limitation and allows His Godhead to shine through. Bursting the gates of death and emerging triumphant, no locked doors created by human hands, could deter the Risen Lord. Not even the doubts of some disciples, prominent among whom was Thomas, could stop the momentum of Easter. There are things to be done ahead. So the Lord commissioned His disciples to continue His work. There is a transfer of authorship of His mission to the disciples.
Their time had come. The Master and Teacher had made a master and teacher to His once fumbling, weak and slow-in-understanding followers. He could now plan His return to the Father. The mission rests on capable hands. Have we ever thought of the purpose why we were born? Perhaps the reason why we are still restless today is because we have not yet done that for which we were born. It will not be easy. But today is a blessed day to reflect and see what God wants me to do. Spending a quiet time for this exercise might help us reorient our life to something meaningful and productive.
1st Reading: Acts 4:23–31:
As soon as Peter and John were set free, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices as one, and called upon God, “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth, of the sea and everything in them, you have put these words in the mouth of David, our father and your servant, through the Holy Spirit: Why did the pagan nations rage and the people conspire in folly? The kings of the earth were aligned; and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.
For indeed, in this very city, Herod, with Pontius Pilate and the pagans, together, with the people of Israel, conspired against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed. Thus, indeed, they brought about whatever your powerful will had decided, from all time, would happen. But now, Lord, see their threats against us; and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness. Stretch out your hand, to heal, and to work signs and wonders, through the name of Jesus, your holy servant.” When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered together shook; and they were all ﬁlled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.
Gospel: Jn 3:1–8:
Among the Pharisees there was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God to teach us, for no one can perform miraculous signs like yours unless God is with him.” Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above.” Nicodemus said, “How can there be rebirth for a grown man? Who could go back to his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you: No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the ﬂesh is ﬂesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Because of this, don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
This will be the beginning of the Gospel trilogy that involves Nicodemus. He was an important member of the religious leaders but felt the need to talk with Jesus. Not yet strong to declare his belief in the Lord, he came under cover of darkness. His fear of being caught by his peers and his desire to know more about Jesus made him cautious.
He had many questions. These had to be settled first before he made his judgment whether to be with or against Jesus. His questions were direct and earnest. Here is a man who genuinely hungered for the truth. Whether he would find it or not during the time of Jesus, still he was a man on the right track to find that which he had been looking for through the years.
1st Reading: Acts 4:32–37:
The whole community of believers was one in heart and mind. No one claimed private ownership of any possessions; but rather, they shared all things in common. With great power, the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, for all of them were living in an exceptional time of grace. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned land or houses, sold them and brought the proceeds of the sale.
And they laid it at the feet of the apostles, who distributed it, according to each one’s need. This is what a certain Joseph did. He was a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas, meaning: “The encouraging one.” He sold a ﬁeld which he owned and handed the money to the apostles.
Gospel: Jn 3:7b–15:
Because of this, don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus asked again, “How can this be?”
And Jesus answered, “You are a teacher in Israel, and you don’t know these things! Truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we witness to the things we have seen, but you don’t accept our testimony. If you don’t believe when I speak of earthly things, what then, when I speak to you of heavenly things? No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
This is the second part of the Gospel trilogy involving Nicodemus. Jesus continues to instruct him on the truth about Himself. At first, Nicodemus will have a hard time understanding him. All that Jesus says seem to be abstract and does not make sense. But Nicodemus, the seeker of truth perseveres. “How can this be?” was all he could say for the moment. Things are not yet clear. But little by little comprehension will set in. It may take a long time. For some it will even take a lifetime. Still, Nicodemus made the first step. This is after all the most crucial step when making the journey of faith.
1st Reading: Acts 5:17–26:
The High Priest and all his supporters, that is, the party of the Sadducees, became very jealous of the apostles; so they arrested them and had them thrown into the public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the door of the prison during the night, brought them out, and said to them, “Go and stand in the temple court and tell the people the whole of this living message.” Accordingly, they entered the temple at dawn and resumed their teaching. When the High Priest and his supporters arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin, that is the full Council of the elders of Israel. They sent word to the jail to have the prisoners brought in.
But when the temple guards arrived at the jail, they did not ﬁnd them inside; so they returned with the news, “We found the prison securely locked, and the prison guards at their post outside the gate; but when we opened the gate, we found no one inside.” Upon hearing these words, the captain of the temple guard and the high priests were bafﬂed, wondering where all of this would end. Just then, someone arrived with the report, “Look, those men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple, teaching the people.” Then the captain went off with the guards and brought them back, but without any show of force, for fear of being stoned by the people.
Gospel: Jn 3:16–21:
Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
This is how Judgment is made: Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For whoever does wrong hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.”
The last part of the gospel trilogy involving Nicodemus leaves us a resounding note on love. The love of God to the world is confirmed by Jesus not only by His testimony but more so by His presence. He is the love incarnate of the Father to the world. And so Jesus’ appearance to the world should not be feared.
Only those who are incapable of love will abhor Him since He will be a sign and presence of what they have missed throughout their lives. The heart that has been long dead will find it difficult to live again in love. And so the blessing of God’s love incarnate became for many a sign of their condemned lives. They will therefore exert all efforts to extinguish this reminder of what they have lost in life.
1st Reading: Acts 5:27–33:
So the temple guards brought them in and made them stand before the Council and the High Priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders not to preach such a Savior; but you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend charging us with the killing of this man.”
To this Peter and the apostles replied, “Better for us to obey God rather than any human authority! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a wooden post. God set him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses to all these things, as well as the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” When the Council heard this, they became very angry and wanted to kill them.
Gospel: Jn 3:31–36:
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “He who comes from above is above all; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth and his words, too, are earthly. The One who comes from heaven speaks of the things he has seen and heard; he bears witness to this but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does receive his testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God. The one sent by God speaks God’s words and gives the Spirit without measure. For the Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything into his hands. Whoever believes in the Son lives with eternal life, but he who will not believe in the Son will never know life and always faces the justice of God.”
Note Peter’s bold and emphatic statement before the Council: “Better for us to obey God rather than any human authority!” Obedience to God is the better option not just for Peter but for the whole world. But how tempting it is to serve Caesar and not God! Aligning with Caesar seems to provide immediate gratification for our peripheral needs and a fleeting sense of security whereas serving God seems to reduce us to a minority often afflicted with much suffering.
But as Peter and other apostles knew very well, such an experience can be fleeting and deceptive, and the reverse of it is the lasting reality. Yet it takes much grace from above to swim against the worldly tide and choose to obey God rather than any human authority. Only those who align themselves with the One who comes from above and gives the Spirit without measure can do it consistently.
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
1st Reading: Acts 5:34–42:
But one of them, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.“ Fellow Israelites, consider, well, what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago, Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared. After him, Judas, the Galilean, appeared, at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he, too, perished; and his whole following was scattered. So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men.
Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it; and you might indeed, ﬁnd yourselves ﬁghting against God.” The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the apostles and had them whipped; and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus, the Savior. Then they set them free. The apostles went out from the Council, rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name. Day after day, both in the temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach, and to proclaim, that Jesus was the Messiah.
Gospel: Jn 6:1–15:
After this, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when he healed the sick. So he went up into the hills and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
Then lifting up his eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.” Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has ﬁve barley loaves and two ﬁsh; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about ﬁve thousand men, sat down.
Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the ﬁsh, and gave them as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten enough, he told his disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and ﬁlled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the ﬁve barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Jesus realized that they would come and take him by force to make him king; so he ﬂed to the hills by himself.
In every movement or organization, logistical problems do pop out from time to time. Sometimes they turn into a nightmare. Our gospel today presents such typical scenario. After a day’s work Jesus went to the other side of Galilee but the people could not get enough of Him. They hungered for more so they followed Him to the other side. Then their hunger became physically real.
It would be a problem how to feed them. Yet every problem presents an opportunity. In this case, it was the opportunity of sharing what one had no matter how small. The poor offering of the little boy became the avenue for the feeding of the multitude. For a miracle does not require much. It is the willingness to give the little that we have that unleashes the abundant blessings of God to us.
1st Reading: 1 PT 5:5b–14:
Beloved: All of you must clothe yourself with humility in your dealings with one another, because God opposes the proud but gives his grace to the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God so that he will raise you up at the appointed time. Place all your worries on him since he takes care of you. Be sober and alert because your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Stand your ground, firm in your faith, knowing that our brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the world, are confronting similar sufferings.
God, the giver of all grace, has called you to share in Christ’s eternal Glory and after you have suffered a little he will bring you to perfection: he will confirm, strengthen and establish you forever. Glory be to him forever and ever. Amen. I have had these few lines of encouragement written to you by Silvanus, our brother, whom I know to be trustworthy. For I wanted to remind you of the kindness of God really present in all this. Hold on to it. Greetings from the community in Babylon, gathered by God, and from my son, Mark. Greet one another with a friendly embrace. Peace to you all who are in Christ.
Gospel: Mk 16:15–20:
Jesus told his disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have believed: in my Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes and, if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed.
They will lay their hands on the sick and they will be healed.” “So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs which accompanied them.”
The Church honors the memory of St. Mark today. The author of the second gospel (which is actually the first to be written) is sometimes identified with John Mark of the Acts. He was reportedly one of the seventy disciples who were sent out in pairs to preach by Christ. Later, he was associated with Paul, Barnabas, and Peter. Mark is said to have founded the church in Alexandria and become its first bishop. According to Coptic tradition, he was martyred in 68 CE. The gospel according to Mark has a certain disarming simplicity, earthiness, and brevity. It is as if it speaks the essentials and does not bother much about decorative detours.
There is a certain immediacy to Jesus’s actions and message—the phrase “and immediately” occurs forty-two times in Mark. Mark does not bother to narrate events regarding Jesus’s birth or infancy. It begins with his ministry and ends with his ascension (or, according to some theologians, with his resurrection). Indeed, Mark’s gospel, like every other gospel, provides a unique perspective and experience of Christ. If you were asked to write a gospel, how would you portray Christ from your experience of him? What essential themes would you highlight?